Archive for July, 2009
The release candidate will only remain operational until June 1, 2010. On March 1, 2010, three months prior to its expiration, Microsoft will attempt to speed up Windows adoption when the Release Candidate begins to shut itself down every two hours, a behavior Microsoft also built into the Windows 7 beta. According to some trade publications, Microsoft will release the actual Windows 7 product to manufacturers starting July 13.
The fact that the release candidate requires a clean installation isn’t all-bad. Clean installations come with the side benefit of improving computer performance, at least for awhile. You may also run the risk of losing working drivers and creating conflicts where none existed before, but the release candidate is still part of Microsoft’s test environment. While they believe they have the major performance degraders corrected, there may still be a few lurking time bombs that will reveal themselves only through thorough testing and use.
Windows 7 will be generally available on October 22, according to Microsoft. Even if you don’t plan to upgrade until that time (or you plan to wait for awhile) now may be a good time to assess your computer to see if it can run the new operating system. If not, you may want to consider whether you’ll upgrade the computer or continue to use your older operating system.
If your computer is more than five years old, purchasing a new computer is likely to be the most cost-effective way to upgrade your system. You’re likely to be able to re-use your monitor, keyboard and mouse. If your monitor is old, you may want to consider the purchase of a new LCD monitor. They take up much less room on the desk and use less electricity. The displays are fast, bright and much lighter than the old CRT monitors.
If your computer is two or three years old, your processor is likely up to the task, but your installed memory and available disk space may not be. Consider a hardware upgrade that includes additional RAM. You may also want to add disk space. An external drive will get you a lot of storage space, but external drives are much slower. You’ll notice a performance hit when you attach one.
If your computer already runs Vista, you’re likely to be ready for the new operating system when it comes out. You may want to test your hardware drivers with the Release Candidate to make sure your hardware will perform as expected.
Photo Credit: DocGroove, via Flickr
Do The Cheap Stuff First
I’m always a huge advocate of doing the “cheap stuff” first. “Cheap” includes maintenance that can make a big difference in the performance of your PC, but that doesn’t cost a lot. In this case, the “cheap stuff” includes downloading and applying all security patches and critical operating system updates. These updates fix “hidden” problems within the operating system that can slow your computer’s performance, and make it more prone to crashing. Since the updates are free, this falls into the “cheap stuff” category.
Along with the “cheap stuff” is the “obvious stuff.” Obvious stuff includes updating your anti-virus and anti-malware software, and running scans on your computer regularly. You can pick up malware even from sites you trust, so running scans regularly can help you spot and remove this nasty, performance-degrading sludge from your computer.
Another “cheapie” is removing auto-loaders. When you load new software onto your computer, there’s a good chance that the “standard installation” routine that most of us choose will install stuff that automatically loads into your computer’s memory whenever you start the computer. These autoloaders take memory away from your operating system and from the other applications. That could be a big price to pay if you don’t plan to run these memory thieves every time you start the computer. Use MSconfig to spot and remove these autoloaders.
Clean your registry periodically. Your computer’s registry gets filled with information when you install a program. Unfortunately, uninstallers aren’t always good at cleaning up this information when the program is uninstalled. These orphans can clog up your computer’s memory and make the operating system run more slowly. Use a program like RegCure to find and eliminate these time-wasters from your registry.
Finally, if you like to leave your computer on overnight, you’ll benefit from rebooting your computer now and then. Rebooting will give your computer a clean start and will clear memory that may not have been properly deallocated when you quit an application, or when an application crashed.
Photo Credit: Fred, via Flickr
Move To Windows 7 Release Candidate
If you haven’t already migrated to the Windows 7 Release Candidate, now would be a good time to do that. The shutdown behavior will continue, and eventually the beta will stop working altogether on August 1. The Release Candidate will start exhibiting the same behavior next spring. June 1, 2010 is the Release Candidate’s “sunset date.” By that time, Windows 7 will have been on the market for about seven and a half months, long enough to get over any cold feet that may seize hold of you.
Windows 7 is faster in most respects than either Windows Vista or Windows XP. It installs faster, loads faster, responds faster and shuts down faster, all common complaints that Microsoft heard from users regarding Vista. Microsoft has gone out of its way to make sure that the move to Windows 7 is trouble-free… inasmuch as that’s possible.
You’ll need to verify that your hardware is up to the task of running Windows 7, especially if you skipped the Vista upgrade. The Windows 7 Advisor can help you determine whether your computer has the right stuff. If you’re already running Windows Vista, there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to run Windows 7 out of the box. Windows 7 is built on Windows Vista, so if you’re already running Vista, the move to Windows 7 shouldn’t be too difficult.
If you’ve been working with the Windows 7 beta, you’ll find that the Release Candidate operates more smoothly and fixes a number of problems found in the beta and is generally more stable. Microsoft’s “carrot-and-stick” approach to migrating users may produce some added benefits for early adopters.
Until July 11, Microsoft is offering the Windows 7 operating system at a steep discount for those who are willing to pony up for the new OS right now. If you already have Windows Vista or Windows XP installed, you can get the Windows 7 Home Premium edition for $50.00. If you prefer the Windows 7 Professional Edition, that’s also on sale for $100, providing that you’re upgrading from a similar version of XP or Vista. Windows Ultimate is not part of the pre-sale. It will retail for $319 for the full product and $219 for an upgrade version. After the presale concludes, you’ll pay the rack rate for Windows 7.
Photo Credit: F687/s, via Flickr
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May Be Used To Address Netbook Upgrades
The approach is being considered, but has not yet been agreed upon by Microsoft, and is meant to make the process of installing the new OS on PC netbook computers easier. As a way to make the devices as compact as possible, these miniature notebooks don’t have a CD or DVD drive built-in. Most netbooks run Windows XP which would require a clean installation if the user decides to move to Windows 7.
It’s not impossible to get a new OS onto a netbook. Microsoft has offered a download option for its operating systems for some time. Likewise, user can connect an external drive or possibly do a network installation. The thumb drive option is interesting nonetheless, and may prove to be a popular and cost effective way to get a new operating system to a computer, regardless of its size.
Using a thumb drive to install an OS isn’t a new idea. Technicians have used this approach since thumb drives became practical size-wise for such a task. In addition, some distributions of Linux also arrive on thumb drives. The approach makes sense, especially if you’re looking for a speedy way to install your OS. (Disc-based OS installation can be maddeningly slow, even on a fast computer!)
Microsoft has not yet committed to a thumb-drive installation and practical questions, such as securing the OS would have to be addressed. Non-writable thumb drives might be a good option to protect the software and make it as widely available (and easily installable) as possible.
Thumb drives can also be made bootable, which could make these miniature marvels a good troubleshooting tool, if you’re having difficulty with your operating system or want to isolate the computer’s OS for some reason. Not all computers support booting from a USB device, and not all USB drives support booting, so those two considerations would have to be addressed.
Overall, it is (at the least) an interesting idea for distributing the OS, and could address the need that some users (like me) have for physical media.
Photo Credit: BushLeague TV, via Flickr
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